Airbrush Photo Editor For PC Archives

Airbrush Photo Editor For PC Archives

Airbrush Photo Editor For PC Archives

Airbrush Photo Editor For PC Archives

Melissa Terras

At the end of the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining (sorry! spoilers!) a photograph is revealed to show Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, at the centre of attention at a 1921 party, which, Kubrick later said, suggests Torrance is a reincarnation of an earlier hotel caretaker. The photograph was not a simple staged photo of the extras that appear in the film, instead it was an adapted version of:

a photograph taken in 1921 which we found in a picture library. I originally planned to use extras, but it proved impossible to make them look as good as the people in the photograph. So I very carefully photographed Jack, matching the angle and the lighting of the 1921 photograph, and shooting him from different distances too, so that his face would be larger and smaller on the negative. This allowed the choice of an image size which when enlarged would match the grain structure in the original photograph. The photograph of Jack’s face was then airbrushed in to the main photograph, and I think the result looked perfect. Every face around Jack is an archetype of the period. (Kubrick interviewed by Michel Ciment between 1975 and 1987, transcribed here).

Details of this process are provided in the 1985 “Complete Airbrushing and Photo-Retouching Manual“, which I recently purchased for a penny, there not being much demand for airbrushing these days.

Photographs have never been neutral. How they are taken, framed, chosen, discarded and processed informs and literally colours our view of history, but the medium has always been tweaked and retouched to show a different sort of reality, one that we require, or other’s think we may prefer. In the case of the Shining, the manual retouching of a historic photograph provides a twist, an uncanny ambiguity to the whole movie. But since their invention, photographs have routinely been improved, manipulated, and adjusted through a variety of processes to improve their appearance, or change their content. As I said in “Digital Images for the Information Professional” back in 2008:

The defacing or erasing of historical personages, documents, artefacts, and architecture is well attested: if you control the image, you control the ideology, and the information passed on to the viewer… photographic images are very easy to manipulate, raising issues of trust, verification, and ethics when using them for proof, research, or evidence of any kind.

As well as the manual manipulation and retouching of photographs to just make people look better, which became common in the late Victorian era and found its heyday in making Hollywood starlets picture perfect, these photographic manipulation techniques were used to more chilling purposes in the USSR in the 1930s, where

The physical eradication of Stalin’s political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by the obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence. Photographs for publication were retouched and restructured with airbrush and scalpel to make once famous personalities vanish… So much falsification took place… that is it possible to tell the story of the Soviet era through retouched photographs… Faking photographs was probably considered one of the more enjoyable tasks of the art department of publishing houses during those times. It was certainly much subtler than the “slash-and-burn” approach of the censors. For example, with a sharp scalpel, an incision could be made along the leading edge of the image of the person or object adjacent to the one who had to be removed. With the help of some glue, the first could simply be stuck down on top of the second. Likewise, two or more photographs could be cannibalized into one using the same method.  Alternatively an airbrush (an ink-jet gun powered by a cylinder of compressed air) could be used to spray clouds of ink or paint onto the unfortunate victim in the picture. The hazy edges achieved by the spray made the elimination of the subject less noticeable than crude knife-work… Skillful photographic retouching for reproduction depended, like any crafty before the advent of computer technology, on the skill of the person carrying out the task and the time she or he had to complete it. (David King, 1997, The Commissar Vanishes, Henry Holt and Company, New York, pages 9-13).

Airbrushing reigned – for good or ill – in photographic manipulation for nearly 100 years. As our 1985 manual explains

The airbrush has been in existence since 1893. During that time it has been repeatedly been denounced as a novelty, phase, or fad. It is an inarguable truth that today more airbrushes are being sold than ever before, and that owners of airbrushes are producing work in an every-increasing number of different styles. The artists themselves are guaranteeing a tremendous future for the tool, by a natural evolution of images that defy categorization… the outlook has never been more healthy. (Owen and Sutcliffe (1985) The Complete Airbrushing and Photo-Retouching Manual, North Light Books, p. 130).

An artistic manual process that required skill and training: could computers ever compare?

Few commercial activities has escaped the scare-mongering that has accompanied the rise to prominence of the computer: that, sooner, or later, the computer will take over from human ability. Airbrushing is no exception. This nation can be instantly dispelled by the fact that, despite the extraordinary advances in computer technology, no electronic process has yet been developed to fulfill satisfactorily the function of human creativity. Nor is any such development on the horizon. (ibid).

Our manual was published in 1985, and was so popular a second edition was printed in 1988. In September of that year, Adobe Systems Incorporated acquired the distribution rights to a little piece of software called Photoshop, which was released commercially in 1990. Although dedicated high-end computer systems for photo retouching had existed before this point, Photoshop (and other graphic design computer programs) democratized and expanded the use of digital retouching methods. A kick-starter funded film to be released later this year, Graphic Means, will trace this change from manual to computational methods within the design sector: we now live in a world where the manual cutting, splicing, and airbrushing seems a distant history.

Fast forward twenty five years. And so everything is now digital, right? Everyone has access to digital photography retouching tools, and even “machine learning” photo changing apps! Digital photographic retouching is now all pervasive, both within the advertising industry (who often get it wrong) and by individuals, who can use a range of apps to correct, adjust, and improve, selfies for sharing on social media environments. Can’t do it yourself? The skill set is now so common, you can have someone on Fiverr retouch your photographs for you for minimal cost (and some people even make social commentary art work out of it). The days of manual tweaking of photographs are over! Except. The tools currently available for photographic adjustment still require levels of skill and expertise to use. The range of filters and tools are dazzling, but they still require a human operator to do the retouching, and to drive the machine, to do bespoke, one-off adjustments (such as would be required in a digital retouching of our Shining pic). Even the fancy filters du jour which are sold as machine learning, such as Prisma, are very blunt tools, and require some level of selection, input, operation, and request from an app user. The filters may be more and more advanced, but they a) have limited, fixed variables b) still require a level of human intervention and b) automated filter processes only tweak the appearance, not the semantic content of the photograph. Zomg! I’ve been Prisma-ed! Machine learning, dontchaknow!

So much, so fun. But exchanging (rather than just filtering) someone’s face in a historic photograph, a la the Shining, still requires someone sitting down and working on making the photographic content look realistic, even though the tools have changed from the manual, to the digital. Surely, this will always be the case, right? Despite the extraordinary advances in computer technology, no electronic process has yet been developed to fulfill satisfactorily the function of human creativity. Nor is any such development on the horizon. I seem to have heard that somewhere before…

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to attend a symposium at the Royal Society’s country estate, the topic of which was Imaging in Graphics, Vision and Beyond. The aim of the seminar was to bring together researchers in disciplines spanning computer graphics, computer vision, cultural heritage, remote sensing and bio-photonics to discuss interdisciplinary approaches and scope out new research areas. I was there along with UCL’s Tim Weyrich given our work on the Great Parchment Book. It was a great two days, and not just for the academic craic (my room was THE OLD LIBRARY! it was glorious).

The paper that made me sit up most and go… here come the awesome robots… was from Dr Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering who co-leads the UW Graphics and Imaging Laboratory at the University of Washington. Ira demonstrated a personalised image search engine designed to show you different potential views of people. Give it an input of a picture of a face, and a text query to find photos, and it outputs results of pictures that automatically include the person submitted embedded into the photographs. Let me give you an example (Ira has given me permission to share these). First she takes the input picture:

The search term used is “1930s”, and bingo: Ira as film star, seamlessly integrated automatically into the historical photographic record.

The new system, called Dreambit, analyzes the input photo and searches for a subset of photographs available online that match it for shape, pose, and expression, automatically synthesizing them based on their team’s previous work on facial processing and three-dimensional reconstruction, modeling people from massive unconstrained photo collections. You can keep your Prisma: here is machine learning at its cutting edge best. More details about how the system works are available from the recent SIGGRAPH 2016 paper where it was launched (hefty 45MB download), and you can sign up for Free Beta Access for when Dreambit is launched, hopefully later in the year, here.

The potential market applications for this are huge (it has been described as a system for trying out different hair styles, but one can also imagine using this for creating bespoke gifts, especially greetings cards: who needs a generic sepia historical humour card when you can slot a pic of a you and a loved one into the picture, for larks?). But what interests me is what this means for institutions and collections creating digitised historical photographic archives, and where, conceptually, this is taking us in understanding how historic photographs can be used, reused, and re-appropriated in the digital realm. You would not have to go to a picture library now and manually tweak and burn and dodge a physical print of a photograph to include it in a film: we’ll soon be able to have computer systems available to do that seamlessly for us.

I’m not sure I’ve really conceptualised what this means for historic photographic archives in the online era yet. There are clearly copyright and licensing issues at play, which is ever a concern in the library and archive community, but beyond that: what does this mean for those in the sector? We’ve barely got out head around how historic photographs lose their metadata or any sense of accreditation or even factual accuracy when they go off into the internet wilds on their own, or how historical photograph content can be monetised in ways institutions never envisaged, never mind what happens when the content starts getting tweaked and rewritten, automatically, swiftly, robotically, changing its very content as well as its context. Are we ready for the robots entering the digitisation landscape? What fun can we have with this – as well as what worries does it bring? (I can imagine various public engagement apps, where Dreambit is applied to particular photographic collections: is this best done with an institution’s permission, or will it happen anyway in the internet wilds, if collections don’t play along?) There are also ethical issues at play about the reuse and appropriation of historical and cultural content: what can we do to educate both other researchers and the general public about the ramifications of these technologies, as applied to the historical photographic record?

We’ve come a long way from the physical photographic processes needed to put someone else into the picture. Now we need to think about how we can use this emergent technology to work alongside and with our digitised content, to retain any kind of control over institutional digital collections. I’ll be really interested in what discussions this provokes – and what the worries, and benefits of the technology, can be viewed to be. It would be wise to start thinking of how we can use collections in this content-changing world, rather than build false barriers to access that we may not be able to maintain.

I find Dreambit’s potential amazing. I’ve asked Ira if she could put my picture into the one used at the end of the Shining. I’m sure it will now only take the click of a button.

Update: 22nd August 2016: Ira put me in the picture…

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Airbrush Photo Editor For PC Archives

There's an old saying that goes, 'a picture speaks a thousand words' and never has it been truer than in the age of social media.

Photos are everything and with the competition for users' attention being stiff, a brilliant image can set you apart from the rest of the field.

But you don't have to be a professional photographer, nor do you have to shell out lots of money to be able to post beautiful images. With the right photo editing tools you can look like a pro without much effort – all on your mobile device!

Here is a list of 14 Mobile Photo Editing Tools 


Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

VSCO (short for Visual Supply Co.) is the original gangster of photo editing tools for social media. With a range of stunning filters, VSCO will allow you to really stand out from the crowd who use standard Instagram filters. The app has a nifty sliding tool that lets you adjust filters so your photos look like they were shot on film, instead of with a digital camera, giving them an authentic look and feel.

VSCO has also an online community of its own, so you can share your images on there with peers, or to any other social network.

Aside from its beautiful filters, the app has all the standard photo editing tools such as cropping and contrast. Its paid option ($19.99 per year) adds Borders and HSL adjustment, as well as additional presets, video editing, early access to new features and photo contest challenges.

2. Adobe Photoshop Express

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

If you've done some photo editing in the past you are probably familiar with Adobe Photoshop. But now the king of photo editing software has a baby sister and its name is Adobe Photoshop Express. This app takes the best of Photoshop's features and puts them into a compressed version of the mobile app.

It has all the standard tools you need, including cropping, contrast, saturation, red-eye correction, filters, etc. What sets it apart, however, is its smart filters, which automatically correct problems with exposure, temperature, etc.

While the Photoshop Express app is free, you'll need an Adobe Creative Cloud account, which will set you back roughly $10 per month.

The great thing about Adobe products is that you know they are tried and tested and widely used which means advice for when you get stuck is widely available and you can be sure that whatever frustration you may have with their product has already been aired.

3. Snapseed

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

As far as all-purpose photo editing apps go, Snapseed has it all. The app is Google's complete and professional photo editor, but is easy enough to use so that beginners can also use it.

This handy app has a massive range of editing tools that is simple to use and gives you exact control over exposure and color. It has black and white, vintage and textured filters, portrait enhancement, lens blur, etc. What sets it apart is that it allows you to edit the existing filters as well as create your own filters.

The app is free and has no in-app purchases.

4. Flickr

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

Flickr may be deleting photos in free accounts in line with its new policy, but free users are still allowed up to 1 000 pictures of any size, making it one of the internet's biggest photo archives.

In addition to this, Flickr functions as one of the most dependable photo editing apps around. It has a solid auto-enhance setting and offers all the standard editing tools, including an editable histogram view. One of Flickr's handiest tools is that it allows users to shoot photos with the enhancement filters on, so you can see what your picture will ultimately look like while shooting.

5. Prisma

Price: Free

Available on Android and IOS

Prisma lets you turn photos into paintings or drawings. And while many photo editors have this setting or a filter that does the same, Prisma's sophisticated software is on a next level.

According to the app itself, it will turn your photos into artworks that look like they were done by Picasso or Van Gogh. A tall order, but one that the app meets with surprising success.

Prisma has a variety of free settings, with additional in-app purchases for if you get really into it. It applies filters in the cloud, so it does take some time but this is a unique way to really stand out from the crowd on social media.

6. Afterlight 2

Price: $2.99

Available on Android and iOS

If you're looking to move beyond basic photo editing, Afterlight 2 might be a good place to start. The app has 27 fully adjustable filters, as well as 14 'guest filters' created by Instagram users, and a Seasons filter pack that includes 18 filters. In addition, it has 66 real and natural light leaks created with 35mm film and instant film, to mimic simplistic scratchy film textures.

In addition to its wide variety of filters and textures, is has an advanced set of tools, such as curves and selective color that allow you to fine-tune the colors and tones in your photos to get the best out of your images. The only thing that bugs slightly is that you can't zoom in on photos.

Afterlight 2 is reasonably priced and promises never to charge for in-app additions.

7. Airbrush

Price: $7.99/month

Available on Android and iOS

Who says you can't have perfect skin and pearly whites in your photos? Airbrush is a photo editor for those who want to take tons of selfies and portraits and want to look perfect in their images.

The app has user-friendly retouch tools and pretty cool filter options. Features include a pimple and blemish remover, teeth whitening and eye brightening tool and a slimming or lengthening feature that lets you reshape your look with the swipe of a finger.

In addition to its HD editing features, the AirBrush editor also allows you to crop, blur, and tune your pics for an artistic, dramatic effect. You can choose to automatically retouch your pictures or fix them manually if you are more pedantic.

What's particularly great about this app is that it lets you edit your picture in real-time, allowing you to place a filter over your image before you take it, so you can be sure it comes out perfectly.

The app costs $7.99 per month, or $35.99 per year with additional in-app purchases. Airbrush supports English, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Chinese.

8. Foodie

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

Are you obsessed with taking photos of your food? Will you let your fillet steak go cold before you eat so you can first take the perfect picture? Are you known to stand on chairs to get the perfect shot of your cappuccino? Then you are a foodie and you need this app in your life.

The Foodie - Camera for life app has just over 30 professional filters that will spice up even the blandest meal. The filters are live, so you can see what your image will look like with a filter while taking it. It has a handy timer and a smart guide for taking photos from above.

Foodie also lets you add live filters to video of up to 3 minutes and has an option that lets you share posts to other social media networks immediately.


Price: $1.99

Available on Android and iOS

Trying to take the perfect picture but just can't get the angle right? SKRWT is the answer to all your problems.

This app's primary function is to let you adjust your perspective so that everything in your image lines up, taking you photo from a snapshot to a professional image with the swipe of a thumb.

It also corrects distorted lines in your image due to the wide-angle lens in most of today’s mobile phones.

10. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

If you're serious about photo editing and you're adept at Adobe Photoshop, you will love the Lightroom CC mobile app. It offers top quality adjustment tools for the professional editor that lets you tweak the color, light, grain and distortion of your photo.

Lightroom CC has a unique 'dehazing' tool, it has advanced camera modes that let you capture more detailed shots and allows you to edit images in bulk, so you can get a consistent look and feel across albums. All of this is included in the free version.

You can upgrade to the premium version, which allows you to import raw photos from your DSLR or mirrorless camera to your phone (provided your phone supports this) allowing you to edit them anywhere.

With the premium version you will also have access to Adobe Sensei, Adobe's artificial intelligence software that automatically tags and organizes your photos based on its content. A quick search for "Dave" or "water" will, for instance, deliver all images in your library than contain these keywords.

11. Pixelmator

Price: $4.99

Available on iOS only

This app offers the best of both worlds of graphic design and photography. Named the 2018 Mac App of the Year, the Pixelmator is a simple to use, all-in-one service.

The layer-based editor has advanced photo editing tools that lets you touch up and adjust images, but also allows you to sketch and paint on your iPhone. It has more than 100 brushes designed by artists to choose from and lets you sketch in incredible detail thanks to its double texture brush technology. Graphic designers will be able to blend layers, text and shapes using one of the 32 blending modes.

This really is a professional editor linked directly to the world of social media by letting you instantly publish your images to Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

If you have more than one Apple device, Pixelmator syncs between your devices so that you can continue where you left off on a different device.

12. Collage Maker

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

You have several great photos that capture the moment but only one frame. Not a problem. Make a collage. Of all the many apps that have this function, Collage Maker is your best bet and a whole lot of fun!

The app has more than a 100 layout options and allows you to combine up to 18 images. It's also an all-in-one photo editor that provides a whole range of editing tools such as crop, flip and rotate. It lets you apply filters to pictures, add sticker and text to images and draw on images with a doodle tool.

13. Mextures

Price: $2.99

Available on Android and iOS

Mextures is a layer-based photo editor that simplifies advance photo adjustment. It lets you stack an unlimited number of layers and it's no-linear workflow makes it possible to move, hide, rotate, and adjust opacity of any layer at any time.

This means you can change any edit you’ve made at any time, even if you added it several steps back.

The app has more than 150 textures that lets you apply dust and film grain, grunge, light leaks and gradients to your images in a flash.

In Mextures 2.0 you can import formulas from other users and share your own formulas on any social network.

14. Google Photos

Price: Free

Available on Android and iOS

Google Photos is the default app for many mobile photographers and offers unlimited storage for photos under 16 megapixels. It automatically backs up and organizes your photos and uses visual search without you having to tag your photos.

The app has advanced editing settings with 14 filters to choose from and cool features like pop control for contrast and sharpness. You can adjust for lighting color, contrast or vignette

If you have an issue with the privacy of your photos, you should probably avoid this one as all your photos will be stored on Google's servers.

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